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From beginning to end.


Put words, any words, on the page.

Goals for the day, dreams you had last night, things bothering you at work—all of these are fair game. You might even want to write about how hard it can be to write. If you start to drift toward your topic, so be it, but that's not the goal. 


You don't even have to worry about paragraphs if you don't want to. You definitely don't need to worry about style or grammar. No one will see these pages but you.

Think of it as warming up your fingers.

Studying at Home

Write down everything you can think of about your topic.

Brainstorming is a lot like freewriting, but you stick to your subject as you go. Write everything about it you can think of—ideas, organizational goals, sub-points, examples, or themes. 

Structure isn't important; what's important is putting stuff on the page. You could think about putting similar ideas into groups or paragraphs if that works for you. You could even try using lists, bubbles, or sticky notes. But all that's important is keeping your pen moving.

Anything that keeps you on topic will do!

Image by Fabrizio Chiagano

Leave your inner editor behind.​

This is one of the hardest things to do when writing, even when freewriting or brainstorming. It's also one of the most important. Be creative now; you can be critical later.

Style and grammar always follow many rounds of drafting. Getting hung up on them early is not only useless but actively detrimental: it slows you down. Moreover, it increases the anxiety that a blank page can produce. Until you're editing, perfectionism is the enemy.

Style and grammar come last.

Image by Elliott Stallion

If something isn't working for you, stop doing it.

It's true that writing is not always pleasant, but if you hit a wall, you won't get anywhere by banging your head on it.  There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that it's there. 

That doesn't mean you have to stop working. Pick another strategy from this list and see how it goes. If you can't draft, go back to brainstorming. If you can't brainstorm, organize what you have. If you can't sit still, work somewhere else. If you can't stop researching, get rid of the wifi. For any one thing you can't do, there are several others you probably can.

Surprise yourself!

sticky notes.jpeg

Put your ideas into groups.


This might mean writing paragraphs, but it doesn't have to. You might start by using color-coded flags or highlighters to sort main ideas. Try cutting up a hard copy of your document, line-by-line, and putting the pieces into piles based on their content. You could write out your ideas on sticky notes and put them in groups on the wall.

The colors, piles, or groups can become sections or paragraphs. Some sections or paragraphs might be more related to each other, others less so. If you can't find a group for something, maybe it doesn't belong, or maybe you just need more support.

At some point, a structure emerges!

Brain Storming on Paper

Put your ideas in order. 

This can look like a traditional outline, but it doesn't have to. It could be a flowchart, a mindmap, a list, or sticky notes on a wall. You just want to clarify what comes before or after something else.

It's easiest if things "flow" neatly from one thing to another. If they don't now, would they in a different order?  Would a particular example work better somewhere else? Does your reader need to know one thing before learning another? Where do your ideas begin, what do they lead to, and where do they end?

Think of it as organizing the organization.

Stack of Lined Notebooks

Work in as many places as you need to.


It's common to have many different things in your head as you write. You don't have to multitask, but you can acknowledge that you're running on multiple tracks at once. 

Consider having several documents open while you work. You might have documents for drafting, brainstorming, organizing, and pasting stuff you're not ready to delete. You might also want one for things not related to your work that you plan to take care of later.

Find places for your work and thoughts!

Colored Pencils in Pencil Holder

Imagine your writing as pictures instead of words.

Think of it as visualizing your ideas. Don't get too hung up on finding or making just the right thing. If you can draw, use PowerPoint, or search for images on Google, you're good to go!

If you find yourself with too many images of one thing and not enough of something else, you'll want to add or get rid of some—just as you would for a story or a presentation. It might be easier, at that point, to come up with ideas, put them into groups, and put them in order.  And if you can get some of that done, you can write it out later. 

Can you see it?

Image by Aaron Burden

Carry a notebook and use it.

Most of the time, inspiration is hard-won. But sometimes a little spark of an idea springs up out of nowhere. Have a place to put it! Get something small that fits in your pocket or bag.

With an easy place for taking notes, you'll be more likely to write things down as they occur to you throughout the day. Another benefit is that you'll have an obvious place to begin when you do sit down to write: you can just look at your notebook and elaborate on what's there. 

So jot it down!

Writing a Diary

Write out your ideas, but think of "draft" as a verb.


It's not important that you end up with a particular thing called a draft; it's important that you draft your ideas. Look at your brainstorming, organizing, documents, outlines, pictures, or notes. Make them tell a story, and put that story into words. 

Write something that a reader could make sense of. It doesn't have to be good; it just has to be intelligible. You don't even have to start at the beginning: somewhere in the middle will do. Just pick the part that seems easiest to write about, and go from there.

Do your thing!

Image by Will Porada

Stop on the downhill, and leave something for tomorrow.  

This strategy can be counter-intuitive. If you know exactly where you're going, why not go there? And if you really want to, go ahead! But if that work is part of a much larger project, you might think about leaving it for the next day.


You'll want a clear starting place tomorrow, and you can be generous with your future self by making that place obvious. You can even think of leaving off now as planning a warm-up for your next session.


What will you begin with next time?

Checking Text on a Document.webp

Look at your words on the page.


There's something about a printed document that makes your work real. No matter how short or unfinished your piece is, you will read it through new eyes when it's actually sitting there.


It is also so much easier to revise on a hard copy. You can't delete things outright, and it can be less scary to strike through passages on a page than to make them disappear forever on a screen. And when it comes to editing, working on a hard copy is crucial. You will always find more to change than you would on a computer.

You don't even have to use a red pen!

Girl Reading

Think about your audience.


Whom are you writing for? Perhaps it's an academic familiar with your field. Maybe it's a client you haven't worked with before. It could be someone you need to teach about a particular skill. And it's possible that you just don't know.

Pick someone, a real person if you can, to write to. Especially when you're revising, imagine how that person will respond to your work. Reading as if through new eyes creates a whole new perspective on what you have done and what you need to do.

Stuck? Imagine your writing coach!

Video Conference from Cafe

Read what you did the day before.


You might be impressed, inspired, or horrified, but you can always be proud that you put words on the page. You did some writing, and that fact deserves to be acknowledged. 

Reading back is also a great way to begin a writing session. Not only will you remember what you did write, but you will get ideas about what you need to work on next. You will be able to see much more clearly what needs to be done—what sections need to be rewritten, revised, or edited. 

So take a look!

Reading Aloud in Classroom

Learn what your words sound like.

Even work that will never leave the page has a pace and a rhythm. The best way to find yours is to read your work aloud. Listen for repetitive sentence structure, overly long sentences, and phrases that could stand just as well on their own. You'll hear things that you would never notice on the page.


You will also be shocked by how much easier it is to edit when you can hear how your writing sounds. Not only does it help you write more clearly, but it also tightens up your grammar.

Even better, have someone read it to you!

Image by Blaz Photo

Read about your topic or about something else.

Reading others' work can do several things for you. First, it can teach you more about your own work. It can also distract you from any current struggle. And perhaps most important, it will immerse you in someone else's prose. 

One of the best ways to become a good writer is to read good writers. Fiction or non-fiction is great—just stay away from social media and the news. Things there can be well-written, but they're not what you're looking for. You're looking for lovely writing.

So find some!

Image by Ravi Sharma

Wake up earlier and start writing.

Many people work better before the day really begins. What would it be like to get up half an hour earlier for a burst of writing? It might make a real difference, and it will certainly make you feel better about your day.

When you work early in the morning, you will also have the rest of the day to reflect on what you wrote.  If you carry a small notebook, you can jot down whatever occurs to you as you go about your day. You will then have plenty of ideas about where to begin the next morning.

Be the early bird!

Image by David Schultz

Stay up later and start writing.


If you stay up late anyway, lean into it. Do you work better once the world is asleep, and could you stay up for another 30 minutes? That burst of writing might make a big difference, and you'll be grateful you got something done when you do fall asleep.

Another reason to work at night is that you'll have all day to think about what you want to write. If you carry a small notebook with you, you can jot down whatever occurs to you as you go about your day. When you do sit down to work, you'll already have ideas for where to begin. 

Embrace your inner night owl!

Image by Christin Hume

Work somewhere else.

If you've ever been stuck at a desk or a kitchen table, try moving somewhere else. Cafes are excellent places to work, especially if you like ambient noise. If you're working early in the morning or late at night, you might try a 24-hour diner. A park would work well if you like the outdoors. And at the very least, you could move to the other side of the table.

Feelings of being unproductive can become associated with the place you're working. Changing the place can give you a new perspective, literally.

Some things are as easy as that.

Image by Alejandro Luengo

Stride, shuffle, or pace.

You can walk around the block or around your office—the scenery doesn't matter. Just get your body up from the desk and start moving


Walking can relieve some of the pressure you feel when staring at a computer or working in circles. You can think about your project at least as well while you're moving as while you're sitting down. Have a computer or a notebook nearby to jot down what occurs to you as you go, or make voice recordings of ideas on your telephone.

Bonus points if you talk to yourself while you're walking!

Paper Diary

Put writing in your calendar.

So often, we put things for other people in our calendars—meetings, soccer games, deadlines. But how often do our own priorities make it in there? Probably not often enough.

Block off two 30-minute times for writing every day. Tell people you're busy during those sessions, that you have appointments. (There's no need to mention that they're with yourself!) You can spend more time than this writing if you like, but at least you'll get some done every day.

Just remember: it's as important as everything else in there!

Image by charlesdeluvio

Find someone to sit with while you work.

It's so much easier to focus when someone is keeping tabs on you. The person doesn't have to read over your shoulder or give you warnings. But when you know that someone will notice, it's harder to get up or give up.

This might be a writing partner, but really anyone else who is working will do. Meet in person or meet online. You won't be talking, so either is fine. Set a time—maybe an hour—and work in relative peace. When you're done, check in with each other and decide whether to keep going.

It works like a charm!

Image by Alizée Baudez

Find a place without wifi and see what happens. Or just turn yours off.

When you're researching, writing emails, or in a remote meeting, you probably need to be online.  If you're writing something longer, though, you probably don't.  It's so easy to get on social media, check your notifications, or glance at new messages.

All of those are distractions. As long as you can save your work to your computer, you don't need to worry about the rest. If you were at an appointment, a concert, or a wedding, you would be unreachable. Think of your writing as that important.

(And, no, you can't use the data on your phone.)

Writing on a Paper

Leave the computer behind and write by hand. 

You would be amazed by how different writing is when you don't have a computer in front of you. Writing by hand is slower, so you have more time to process your ideas as you work. Sometimes that's not what you want, but sometimes it's exactly what you need.

When you're writing with a pen, it's also easier to circle things, draw arrows, and underline. You can write and mindmap as you go. And, crucially, it's very hard to delete your work. You'll always end up with something on the page.

Grab a pen and you're good to go!

Happy Teenager

Get enough sleep, take lots of breaks, and go outside.

Taking care of your writing life means taking care of yourself. If the goal is to sustain your writing habits, you need a sustainable practice—one that values you as much as it does your work.

You can't be a good writer if you're always staring at a page. Good writers give their thoughts and their pens time to settle during the day. Pausing, reflecting, and redirecting are key when developing your habits as a writer and a person.

Be good to yourself!

Image by Chris Curry

Find what works for you and keep doing it!

Many of these strategies won't work for you. That's fine! And some of these might work for a while but then slow you down. That's fine, too! But most of the time, you'll find some that prove tried and true.


You want to develop new writing habits, and that comes through repetition. Find a structure that works for you. It can be flexible enough to accommodate a project's particular needs, but the structure should be in place.

Once it is, just cheer yourself on!

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